Dejection: An Ode - Stanza Wise Summary & Analysis

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      Stanza 1. Well! if the poet, who wrote the ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, was a reliable prophet of weather (in so far as to be believed, that the sight of old moon in the arms of the new, portends stormy weather), this night which is so calm just now, is bound to be stirred by winds that are blowing more violently here than (winds) that are shaping the distant clouds into large fleecy tufts of snow, or than that gasping current of air which is complaining and sweeping over the strings of the Aeolian lute. It will have been much better if the lute are silent. Look! the new moon shining brightly is covered with an unearthly light, a sort of floating ethereal light, and is encircled by a bright thread of light. I see the old moon in the circular disc of the new. It portends the coming of rain and blowing of violent gusts of wind. Even now the gusts of wind are increasing in violence and intensity. Showers of rain are falling in a slating manner and are both loud and fast. The sound, of the wind and storm which often have elevated my soul in the past and have made my imagination roam abroad, might perhaps give their usual impetus to my soul tonight. They might revive my sense of failure and frustration as a poet and even intensify it.

      Stanza 2. The sorrow from which I suffer is unattended by pain, is ineffectual, dark and dismal. It is a sort of choked up, sleepy, feelingless sorrow which refuses to find an expression and get some relief thereby into words, sighs or tears. Oh my sweetheart! in this vacant and feelingless mood and entertaining different thoughts from those of the distant singing throstle, I have been looking at the sky in the west and at its peculiar yellow-green colour. I am still looking at it (the sky) and I am staring at it with a blank look. I look at those thin clouds worked up into flakes and streaked with bars. These clouds by moving themselves, make the stars move behind or between them. Sometimes these stars look very bright and sometimes very dim but they can be seen always. The distant new moon is fixed to its place and it appears as it grows where it is shining now. I see all these objects of nature which are so exceedingly beautiful but I am not moved or stirred to my depths by their beauty. 

      Stanza 3. I feel no longer jovial and mirthful. The sight of the beautiful objects of nature cannot cure the sorrow of my heart by lifting the stifling weight of grief from off my mind. It will be a fruitless attempt even though I shall go on looking at that green light which is still staying out in the west. I cannot expect external objects of nature to; inspire me, because the sources of poetic inspiration lie within the mind or the soul of a person (Thus if the mind is paralysed, no amount of external objects, however beautiful, can inspire the poet.)

      Stanza 4. O Sara! we interpret nature by our own moods and whims. We ourselves attribute emotions and feelings to inanimate objects of nature. We invest nature with beauty and colour (sometimes when we are in a happy mood) and we invest it with gloom and sorrow (when we are dejected or depressed). If we read a deeper or inner meaning into nature (Like Wordsworth, for example) the inner meaning is deposited into nature by ourselves, for it is not revealed by the lifeless and cold nature to the feelingless and overanxious common man. The higher or spiritual meaning that we (pretend) to read into nature, only proceeds from our own soul, the light, the splendour, the beautiful brightness with which we invest nature come from within our own soul and are made to wrap up the different objects (of nature). Similarly, the poetic inspiration also proceeds from the soul of the poet. It is no thing but a sweet and powerful echo of the soul and it in itself is the very soul and essential component of all sweet sounds (like music and poetry).

      Stanza 5. O innocent and spotless Sara! you need not ask me what poetic inspiration is like or where its abode is. It is a light, a splendour, a beautiful mist which is not only beautiful in itself but which enables the poet to create beauty. It is given to poets in their most sublime moments. It is the very soul of life, nay the very stream from which life flows. It is vague as well as beneficial. It is a pure joy. It is spirit and a power which Nature gives to the poets when nature and the poets work in perfect harmony. It is a dowry or gift bestowed by Nature on the poets.

      By virtue of possessing it, the poets enjoy the vision of a new earth and a new heaven: a vision which cannot be imagined by those who delight in pleasures of the sense and who are proud. We, the poets, take delight in our poetic faculties or poetic inspiration. From it (the poetic inspiration or exultation) flow all the fine arts that captivate the ear or the eye (like the arts of music, poetry, painting and sculpture). All music is nothing but a reverberation of poetic exultation and all the colours used by the painters in painting are coloured or influenced by it.

      Stanza 6. In the past though I have to face many difficulties yet on account of possessing poetic exultation, I did not mind sorrow. I took misfortunes smilingly. They are, in fact the material, out of which my imagination wove beautiful dreams of happiness for me. I am hopeful and optimistic. I am encircled by thoughts of hope just as a tree is entwined by a creeper, and blessings and joys, which eluded me still seemed to be within my grasp. But now misfortunes crush me completely. I, however, do not mind the loss of my jollity. But what I mind most is that each visit of misfortunes and mental depression annuls or suspends what nature bestowed on me at the time of my birth - my poetic faculty or imaginative sensibility. I realise my helplessness in not being able - express what I feel strongly. I am compelled to be silent and resign myself to the loss of my poetic faculty. I fear that the increasing interest I am taking in profound Metaphysics (philosophy) will one day kill the poet in me, though I feel, that by nature I am a poet and not a Metaphysician. My poetic faculty is my only stock or treasure; but Metaphysics which best suits intellect or intellectual faculties, has now infected the whole of my being. The metaphysical way of thinking has become a second nature with me (so that I am now incapable of experiencing a poetic or emotional rapture). 

      Stanza 7. Therefore leaving aside tormenting and biting thoughts which oppress my mind and which make me realise the unpleasant reality of my failure as a poet, I turn to listen to the noise made by the wind which has been howling for a long time unnoticed by me. That lute, just now (played upon by the wind) gave expression to a cry of pain that was drawn but because of the torture of the experience. You wind! it would have been far better for you if you blew on bare rocks, mountainous lakes, a withered tree, through a thick group of pine trees never climbed by a woodcutter, or through a haunted house which has been the abode of evil spirits for a long time, rather than on the lute lying in the window. O wind, you are a mad lute player, because in the rainy season you are, by making the weather intensely cold, celebrating an untimely and unholy Christmas festival, with your shrieking songs, by blowing through flowers, buds and timid leaves of trees in the garden. You (the wind) are a perfect actor because you can imitate all the human tragic sounds. You are a powerful poet (because you can express every human sound) and are bold to point of being mad. You seem just now to imitate the sound of a defeated army retreating in a disorderly manner. You seem to imitate perfectly the shrieks of trampled soldiers who are crying on account of the severe wounds they have received in the battle-field. They seem to be crying with pain altogether and shivering with the cold. But silence! there is a pause of profoundest silence. It seems that all the noise of the retreating army accompanied by cries and shivering has vanished. The wind now imitates the sound of some other human being in a softer and less loud manner. It is a story of lesser fear and it is mitigated by a delightful pathos. It is as charming as a charming song composes by Thomas Otway himself. The wind is now imitating the sound of a small child who has lost her way in a lonely forest which is situated near her home. The child seems to cry softly sometimes out of fear and poignant sorrow and sometimes shrieks loudly, in order to attract the attention of her mother.

      Stanza 8. It is midnight but I have little inclination to go to bed. I pray, however, that my beloved Sara might never have to keep awake at night like me. O gentle sleep, visit my beloved with your balmy and soothing charm. I wish and pray that this storm be confined to the mountain which has given birth to it and may now blow over the house of my sweetheart. May all the stars shine brightly above her house, and may they shine so serenely and silently as if they are watching the sleeping earth. May my beloved Sara rise from her sleep in the morning in a cheerful frame of mind. May bright thoughts, cheerful looks and joy elevate her soul and may joy make her voice musical. May all nature always appear to her to be full of joy and beauty and may her living soul be surrounded by all the pleasures of life. O beloved Sara! you are an innocent spirit who are guided by heaven. You are the most pious friend of mine. I pray that you should enjoy constant and eternal happiness and sorrow may never invade your heart.


      1. L 3-8. This night, so tranquil now.....were mute: These lines suggest the background against which the poet sat to write his most famous ode. Nature is in a violent state. It is night. The poet see the old moon in the lap of the new moon and this is a natural foreboding of something inauspicious. When the night has set in, it is not so terrible. It was tranquil. But he apprehends the weather to grow violent. The wind is blowing gently then. The gentle puff of the wind waft lazy patches of cloud here and there, and sometimes the soft and moaning wind harped a sad and melancholy tune on the strings of the Aeolian lute. But the poet thinks that this dull wind will soon be replaced by a terrible storm blowing with a violence. The poet thus creates a suitable background against which he expresses his own feelings. The poet has been roused to a mood of intense pathos and self-pity. He is fill with an infinite longing to revive the creative imagination in him which is nearly dead. But he is utterly helpless and the natural setting suggests this intense pathos born of the poet's sense of helplessness. The Aeolian lute has a symbolic value in the poem. The poet himself is the Aeolian lute charges with a deep-seated melancholy. His feelings are like the strings of the lute. The terrible storm that is raging furiously has also disturbed him. He too has been upset and so powerfully is he overwhelmed with a sense of grief that the tempest that is about to blow does not let him rest in peace. But the poet wants the lute to be silent.

      2. L. 15-20. And oh.....move and live: In these lines, the poet speaks of the changes of weather. He says that the wind is growing in violence. It is gradually increasing in its tempo and the storm is nearly to come. It is raining in thick showers. These showers and storm have often filled him with a rare inspiration. The fury of the storm and the downpour of heavy rain have often synchronized with a similar gust of passion in the poet. The poet expects that the storm that blows now and the slanting showers of rain will as usual fill him with a driving inspiration, and give him the same impulse as of old. The poet is seething with a deep sense of grief. He has been greatly moved and agitated. A powerful feeling of grief has overwhelmed him and it is struggling for expression. The poet urges the fury of the storm and drift of the showers to impel him to still greater fierceness of pain. He wants the dull and benumbing pain, which has almost frozen in his body to be roused and become vocal. He wants his intense feeling of pathos to find suitable utterance.

      3. L. 21-24. A grief without a pang.....or tear: In these lines, the poet gives expression to his sense of grief. He says that he has been seized by an unutterable grief. So deep is the feeling of pain in him that he has been rendered speechless. His is a grief without a pang - a grief which has been so deeply seated in his heart that the poet's sensitiveness to the pain has been dulled completely. In the rest of the lines he tries - even struggles hard to give a feeling and expression to his sense of pain. But he cannot say precisely what his pain is like. Therefore he tries to explain the nature of his pain. It is blank, dark and desolate. He feels stifled and breathless for the pain. It is a benumbing grief which has deadened his sensitiveness and the grief has completely frozen in him. His is a feeling of grief which finds no outlet, either in word or sigh or tears. The four lines referred to are suffused with an intense note of pathos. They speak of the mute tragedy of the poet.

      4. L. 31-38. And those thin clouds above.....they are: The poet in these lines regrets the loss of his creative imagination. The fountain of the joy of life has dried up in him. He is dead and insensitive to the beauties of Nature. He has no feelings and he never waxes to a cheerful mood - that Nature is beautiful. He sees the majestic cloud floating in the sky-in patches and in long lines. These majestic clouds lend their dignified grace and movement to the stars which sometimes glide in between the flakes of cloud and sometimes he concealed behind them, in other words, the stars sometimes twinkle brightly in the sky and sometimes grow dim. But they are always present and visible. He sees also the crescent moon. This moon seems fixed and immobile. It shines eternally in the blue sky and the poet says that the moon remains fixed to the place where it arose-among the cloudless, starless lake of blue. All these objects of Nature are extremely beautiful. The poet sees them all. But they do not stir his emotion or arouse a response in him. In fact, the poet has grown insensitive to the appeal of natural beauties. He has no feelings for them. His feelings have died. He stares at them with blank eyes.

      5. L. 39-46. My genial spirits fail.....fountains are within: The poet, in these lines laments the loss of his inspiration. He says that the spirit of joy has died and the objects of nature, however beautiful, will do little to allay his pain. He is seized by a deep seated melancholy. He is dulled with too heavy a weight of depression. These scenes of beauty will be all meaningless and will fail to lift the heavy weight of depression that burdens his soul. He gazes at the beauty of Nature even now. Even now he looks hard on the green light that lingers in the west. But what if the objects of Nature are beautiful? It is not outer objects that arouse the passion and feelings of the poet. His own feelings of joy and warmth of passion add a natural luster to the objects of natural beauty. They do not have any intrinsic beauty in them. But they assume a beauty invested by the poet's rich fancy. But the poet regrets to say that his feelings have died. He has grown insensitive to the appeals of natural beauty.

      The fountain of life has dried up in him because of the heavy drain of his poetic potentialities in the family distractions. The lines express the poetic creed of Coleridge and a lamentation for the flickering away of his poetic genius.

      6. L. 59-66. O pure of heart.....and shower: The poet addressing his beloved Sara Hutchinson as a pure hearted lady tells her in touching language the significance of joy in life. He says that she need not ask him what is. Explaining the nature of this joy the poet says that it is a beautifying force — it is the spirit of beauty; it is beauty itself. It is the light and glory of life It is the fair luminous mist. The poet says that there is something divine about the nature of joy. Joy is given only to the pure and in their purest hour. When this blessing is beauty, it accumulates like cloud and rains down in thick showers. Joy, therefore, is an enviable gift. It is given to the pure in the purest hour and whoever receives it, receives all that is good and graceful in life.

      7. L. 71-75. Joy is the sweet voice.....from that light: The poet is trying to explain the nature of joy. He says that joy is everything. Joy is life. Joy is the charm of life. It is the sweet voice in us and the luminous cloud above. It is joy that is sweet. So whoever speaks sweetly is inspired by joy. Similarly, the lovely luminous cloud is another expression of joy. Thus, all that is sweet in sound — is the audible manifestation of joy. Again, joy is the luminous cloud. The poet means to say that the luminous cloud which shines with a mellowing luster in the sky is the visual manifestation of the spirit of joy. So whatever is sweet and beautiful, is the external manifestation of the spirit of joy. It is from this spirit of joy that all that is charming to the eyes and sweet to the ears flow out. All the sweet music of the world is the echo of this spirit of joy and all the charming colours of the world are the suffusion of the light of joy.

      8. L. 76-81. There was a time.....seemed mine: The lines are suffused with a rich memory of the past. The poet says that there is a time when he has plenty of joy in him. He is so full of the stirring spirit of joy that his sorrow and distress can hardly be a match for the joy. The times are rough indeed. He is beset with distress but even in his misfortune, he see dreams of future happiness. His creative imagination is a glow with a radiance which turns sorrows and sufferings into dreams of happiness and joy. In these days he is full of hope. Hope grow round him as vine twists round a tree. He is full of rich blossoms and rich fruits. Probably Coleridge refers to the six years of his early married life which are full of rosy dreams and cheerfulness. These lines of Coleridge remind us of almost similar lines in Wordsworth's ode:

There was a time when, meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and freshness of a dream

      9. L. 82-86. But now afflications bow me.....Imagination: The poet refers to his miseries in very touching language. He says that now the fountain of joy has dried up in him. His life is full of untold miseries. The afflictions of life have bent him down. He stoops and staggers under the heavy weight of troubles and sufferings. These troubles and sufferings have not only a negative value. They do not simply rob him of all his joys; more than that they darken the very glow of life in the poet. He does not regret so much the loss of joy, but what he feels very deeply is that each blow of Pain kills his creative imagination and leaves him all ashes and cold. They extinguish the very flame of genius - the fire of passion, which he inherited from his birth.

      10. L. 97-107. What a scream of agony.....leaves among: The poet hears the rattling of the storm. He becomes aware of a painful and bitter tune plays on the strings of the Aeolian lute. He explains with anguish that a sad and tragic note has been played by the furious storm on the strings of the lute. The tune has vibrated the chord of his feeling and he is deeply touched by the sad and pathetic note on the lute. The poet says that the terrible storm shall not have struck a sad note on the Aeolian lute. This lute is meant for a sweet note. The storm shall have rather blown away its fury in its usual places-such as naked steep rocks, mountain lakes, blasts trees, unfrequented pine groves, lonely houses haunts by witches - which are more suited for its terrible note of wilderness and melancholy. The poet addresses the storm as a mad lutanist, because in this month of sunshine and showers i.e., in the month of April with its beauty of buds and blossoms, the storm shall have played a lovelier tune. But instead of playing a sweet and harmonious note, the storm howls like the Devil's cry. The tune that the storm has played is cold and bitter, painful and biting. Instead of playing some soft tune in this month, it has played a cold and chilly note.

      11. L. 118-125. A tale of less affright.....mother hear: The poet in these lines suggests the change in the tempo of the storm. The storm has become less fierce. In the preceding stanza, the storm rustled through the wilderness. From rattling to rustling and from rustling to moaning is the order of the decrease of the tempo of the blowing storm. The poet says that now the tone of the storm has changed to a faint but painful moaning. The roar is now less terrible than what it is. The storm has lost much of its fierceness. It is now tempered with delight. Its moan is low and poignant, full of rare softness and delicacy. The storm now reminds one of the tragic plays of Otway, the Restoration tragedian. Otway has a reputation for soft and delicate tragic feelings. The storm too has changed its violent tone into a soft and gentle moaning suffuses with a pathetic touch. The tenderness of this moan is like that of Otway's plays. The poet tries to explain the softness of the moon and its tender pathos by comparing it with a girl wailing in the wilderness in the midst of a storm. She has lost her way and is shouting in a tender and pitiable voice in the storm to make her mother hear her cry. The poet means to point to the tragic tale of Lucy Gray. A sense of intense pathos is born Out of the tragic end of the girl. She goes out in the storm, with a lantern in her hand to guide her mother in the storm. She lost her way and as indications are there, she fell down from a bridge in a pool of water and died. The storm that blows is suffused with the same tenderness and pathos which characterises Wordsworth's tragic tale of Lucy Gray.

      12. L. 126-139. 'Tis midnight, but small thoughts have.....evermore rejoice: Coleridge prays in this stanza that his beloved may never share his dejection or unrest. He says: Though it is midnight, yet I have little inclination to go to bed. I at night pray, however, that my beloved may not have to keep awake like me. O gentle sleep, visit my beloved with your balmy and soothing charm. I wish and pray that this storm should be confined to the mountain and not blow over the house of my sweetheart. May all the stars shine brightly above her house, and may those stars shine so serenely and silently as if they are watching the sleeping earth. May my beloved rise from her bed in the morning in a cheerful frame of mind. May bright thoughts, cheerful looks and joy elevate her soul and may joy make her voice musical. May all nature appear to her to be full of life and beauty; may her living soul be surrounded by all the pleasures of life. O dear Sara, you are like a heavenly spirit who are guided by heaven, you are the most pious friend of mine. I pray that you should enjoy constant and eternal happiness.

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